Rocky Mountain High

I left my daughter, Betsy, my son-in-law, Sean, and the warm embraces and delightful squeals of my two grandsons, Wesley, 4, and Raynor, 1, in Durham, NC to board an American flight from Raleigh-Durham, NC to rugged, untamed, independent Grand Junction, CO. On the other end, my delightful daughter, Jackie Styons, and her partner, Zak Olson, awaited my arrival.

My connecting flight to Dallas contained all the usual crying babies, complimentary snack of pretzels and a beverage and a middle seat. My seat mates were not talkative and that was OK. The weather was clear and I could see the ground below for most of the flight. I usually try to get a window seat, but was unable to get one on this flight.

Once I landed at the Dallas airport, I had a short amount of time to catch my connecting flight. Unfortunately, I left my ticket on the airplane…I mean who does that?!! I stopped at an American counter and they printed me another one and told me they were now boarding at gate 14. By combining running on the moving walkways, which made me feel like I was flying, I just barely made it to the gate in time.

I boarded a smaller plane and saw a young lady sitting in my assigned seat. She wanted to know if we could trade seats so she could sit with her boyfriend. I said, “Sorry, no,” as I always request a window seat so I can look out at the landscape. I felt like a dog and suggested that she and her boyfriend move to one of the many empty seats. After the seat belt light went off, they moved to two seats together and I immediately felt better. I was compelled to frequently look out the window even though there was nothing to see to justify my not giving up my seat. The sun was bright and everyone had their window cover down except me. But, I was determined to look out that window, dang it!

The stewardess came by and offered me another soda and pack of pretzels. There were some advantages to being on an almost empty flight! Later, as I looked in amazement at the view as we crossed over the gorgeous Rocky Mountains, I felt vindicated for not giving up my seat!

Once I arrived in Grand Junction, I immediately went to the car rental section only to find out that there were very few cars for rent and they were all very expensive. Suddenly, I remembered I hadn’t picked up my suitcase from the carousel and quickly dashed there only to find the luggage carousel empty. I went to the American Airlines desk and they had picked it up for me and put it behind the counter for safety reasons. I thanked them profusely and took my bag and headed to the front of the airport where I saw my daughter sitting in her small car at the entrance.

It was so good to see her and she helped me put my luggage in her car. The temperature was below freezing and there was a small accumulation of snow in Grand Junction. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Mesa Valley surrounded on all sides by mountains. I asked my daughter if she’d been there long enough to take the unique beauty for granted or did she still appreciate it. She told me the beauty still amazed her.

We arrived at her house in Fruita, home of the Colorado National Monument, one of my all time favorite parks. Colorado National Monument reminds me of a smaller version of the Grand Canyon and is breathtakingly beautiful and I’ve always thought it should be elevated to a National Park status versus a Monument. What an amazing location in which to live!

When we arrived at Jackie’s house we enjoyed her delicious homemade BBQ and Brunswick stew. Being a great cook is just one of her many talents. They had some marijuana joints (yes, it is legal here for those twenty-one and older) prepared especially for me and after the meal I smoked one while I listened to Zak as he played his own compositions on his electric piano, banjo, guitar and drums. He had a loop pedal that allowed him to layer the music and it sounded like a whole band was playing in the room with him. He is very talented and thoughts such as “Life is good” and “It just doesn’t get any better than this!” drift through my mind.

The next snowy day, Jackie and Zak took me to Powderhorn Resort in Mesa, CO. They both have season passes because they work there part time. I wanted to try snowboarding or skiing, but had been warned repeatedly by several loved ones that I probably shouldn’t risk it for fear of falling and breaking a bone. If I were younger I would be in a better position to take the risk, but I’m no longer a spring chicken. I watched the skiers and snowboarders from the warmth of the lounge by the fireplace drinking an incredible Bloody Mary made from the resort’s special recipe. Jackie and Zak both took the ski lift up and snowboard down and seemed to thrive on the experience. They returned hungry so we ordered a peanut Thai chicken pizza and we enjoyed every bite. We prepared to leave when I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I had missed out on an exhilarating experience and asked them could I please try snowboarding. I borrowed Jackie’s boots and Zak hooked me up to the board at the top of a very small hill. He told me to bend my knees and held me as I got started. I screamed with fear and wobbled the whole way down, but managed to reach the bottom without falling. I had a wonderful sense of accomplishment and was so glad I had tried!

The ride from Powderhorn Resort back to Fruita was gorgeous as the mountains were covered in glistening snow. Several aggressive drivers, common in Colorado, got on our bumper and Zak politely pulled over and let them pass.

We arrived home in a light snowfall and went inside their warm house to be welcomed by their three sweet dogs. Before retiring, I enjoyed one of Colorado’s many popular craft beers, Upslope Craft Lager, as I reminisced about the incredible day.

No trip to Fruita, CO or Grand Junction, CO would be complete without visiting the Colorado National Monument. I have visited it several times in the past, but this was my first winter trip. Each season in the Monument provides it’s own unique gifts of beauty. In the winter there are fewer visitors and I pretty much had the park to myself. The gorgeous mountains and steep cliffs were snow-covered and the roads were icy. Once I reached a pull off I made a U-turn and was relieved when I finally returned to the entrance intact!

Tomorrow I will fly out of Grand Junction to Phoenix, AZ. While I will miss magnificent Colorado, I am looking forward to my next adventure. Thank you Jackie and Zak for a very memorable visit!

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